PIROGOVO,Ukraine—Ukraine historically was a land of farmers who cultivated the rich, black soil to feed their families. In every village there used to be a blacksmith who would forge the tools for agricultural workers—spades, ploughs, crotches.
Thus a blacksmith was the heart of the village. Many of the, modern participants also treat this craft as something very special. Many of them are university-educated and even have degrees in humanities.
On the first weekend in August about 50 blacksmiths gathered in a small village of Pirogovo, not far from Kiev, to demonstrate their skills at the “Day of Blacksmiths” festival. Before an outdoor audience, they forged door handles, sharp swords, and kitchen utensils. They held master classes for anyone interested in learning the ancient and handy trade.
Forging objects from metals—typically iron—is not easy. The iron should first be brought to the right—and very specific—temperature to make it soft; then the blacksmith starts shaping it with a hammer or chisel.
In the old days blacksmiths used wood and coal to heat the metal. Nowadays they chose oxyacetylene or blowtorches for spot heating.
People come to become blacksmiths for various reasons.
Andrey Zubritsky has been making horseshoes for eight years. He told us that he could not work as anyone else. “I would not stay in the office—it would be too boring and mundane for me,” he said. “You have to hold in all your emotions, then you start thinking of suicide. Now I am fine. I can express my emotions right here—at work. Everyone is happy, everyone is glad, and I am mentally healthy.”
Dmitry Ovodenko does not need to express his emotions at work. He does not have them while he is busy working. For him being a blacksmith is a sort of relaxation.
“Hammering heated metal is a special way of meditation,” he said. “At that moment I switch off all my thoughts. You are working with metal, with fire, air, and water—all the four major elements. And here I feel like I am flying, it is a very pleasant feeling. I am emotionally connected and have a clear mind at the same time.”
The blacksmith’s festival was not only for local residents. Many out-of-towners and even foreign visitors came to watch and participate.
Edward Gedet from France and was excited by the show. ”I am so happy to be here,” he said. “In my opinion, this is very amusing and fascinating.”
A German tourist Philip Seifretex enjoyed the hand-made pieces. “They are well presented to the people today, and there is also some history to learn about how they used to be made in the past,” he said.